Cru’s presence at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is part of a global organization evangelizing to anyone receptive to their message.
An organization with a history of anti-communist and counter-counterculture activism in the 1960s and 1970s might seem like an anachronism on a 2018 college campus, but Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) remains one of the largest campus Christian organizations today. The organization is active on about 1,740 college and university campuses, including 13 schools in the University of Wisconsin system.
At UWGB, Cru focuses on offering fellowship to Christian students away from home for the first time and ministering to people interested in exploring the Christian faith. They host events such as the Barn Bash, wherein they rented a barn from a family and held a barn dance with food and games. They also do charity work offering care packages and blankets to people at homeless shelters throughout the region. The UWGB chapter typically has between 30 – 60 people participating, but membership has been as high as 120.
Some history of Cru, John G. Turner, an assistant professor of religious studies at George Mason University wrote in 2008 about the history of Cru in Bill Bright & Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America. The Cru of today has a markedly different face than the original Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) founded in 1951 by Bill Bright and Vonette Zachary Bright at the University of California, Los Angeles. In the 1950s, CCC’s focus was on converting students at UCLA to Christianity, and in 1952 they had converted 250 students. Their orientation was explicitly anti-communist and they initially cultivated relations with the fundamentalist Bob Jones University, but split with them in 1958.
In the 1960s and 1970s, CCC created a band called in the New Folk in order to compete with countercultural musicians such as Bob Dylan and the Beatles. They explicitly counter-protested left wing and antiwar protests, including offering “crash pads” for drug addicts, evangelizing during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and even infiltrating meetings of the Students for a Democratic Society.
In the 1970s and 1980s, CCC took an explicitly anti-abortion and anti-homosexual stance. They aligned with evangelical religious right leaders such as Pat Robertson, Jack W. Hayford, and Billy James Hargis, the last of whom was known for his anti-communist and segregationist messages. In the 1990s, CCC continued its anti-abortion and anti-homosexual messaging, but following the end of the Cold War expanded their evangelizing into the former Soviet Union. In 1996, CCC took criticism for publishing testimonials by “former homosexuals.”
In 2011, three years after Turner’s book was written, CCC changed its name to “Cru,” ostensibly to disassociate itself with the negative connotation of the word “crusade,” particularly among Muslim communities according to a July 20, 2011 New York Times story. However, the organization has changed in other ways. Today’s UWGB chapter is accepting of gay membership and focused on good works and fellowship in lieu of the explicitly political and anti-gay stances of years past. One Cru member, when asked whether Cru engages in any political activity, was unaware that Cru had engaged in any political activity in the past. Cru’s own website confirms much of the history laid out by Turner, but mentions of its explicitly political activity are not present on its history page. As its name changed from Campus Crusade for Christ, so too has its priorities on what sort of Christianity they want to promote.
Looking for a way to develop a better relationship with Christ? One way to do that on Campus is with Cru!
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